by M. A. Dorai Rangaswamy | 1958 | 410,072 words
This page describes “nature mysticism” from the philosophy of Nature in the Thevaram. The 7th-century Thevaram (or Tevaram) contains devotional poems sung in praise of Shiva. These hymns form an important part of the Tamil tradition of Shaivism
I - Nature and Mystics:
Every experience involves subject-object relation. The subject is usually generalized as the spirit or the soul. The object is generalized as Nature or Universe or Prakrti. The basis or ‘adhara’ of these, sometimes called their Ruler, is God or the Absolute, decribed under various names such as Brahmam, Shiva, etc. Nature which is called Prakrti in Indian Philosophy includes not only what the Westerners call matter but also mind and the individualizing egoism or ‘ahankara’. Spirit is pure knowledge and is beyond ‘this matter and is called the Atman, which is itself further differentiated from the Paramatman or the Lord. Every Philosophy therefore, has to deal with the nature of these three categories and their inter-relationship.
Every Philosophy starts with the fact of this world, but the philosophies differ when they begin to explain the relationship of this world with the Atman and the Paramatman. Mystics experience God in or through Nature and to all of them, it does not appear as opposed to God; they experience even there a unity through union. As Arurar describes the Lord, He is the Saksin or the Subject and the Object: “Munnilaiyay mulutulakum aya Peruman”. These mystics, when they begin to express this inexpressible experience, necessarily have recourse to metaphors, allegories and parables. In that way, their language becomes poetic. Nature mysticism thus becomes one with Poetic or Artistic or Aesthetic mysticism.
With their vision and faculty divine, they intuit God and commune with the Ocean’s liquid mass, the solid frame of earth and the shining clouds. It is said of Amid, the mystic, that he had such overpowering intuitions of Nature,, such grand and spacious immortal cosmogonic reveries, reaching the stars and owning such instants of mystic experience as moments divine and ecstatic, in which his thoughts flew from world to world. The saints of Tevaram have had such experiences which they have given utterance to in their exquisite poetry.
II - Mystics of other land:
The experience of other mystics may help us to better understand Arurar s Nature Poetry. Some speak of Nature as a dim shadow of the Absolute, whilst others see God’s reflection in the mirror of Nature. According to Plato’s simile of caves, we are all in the world of shadows being within the cave (the baddha— fettered stage), where we experience only the appearance and not the reality which we can directly experience once we get out of this cave. This reminds us of the Vedantic truth that Brahman, the noumenon, appears as the phenomenon. According to him the mystics build a ladder from Earth to Heaven, from sense perception to Soul-sight, from the beautiful forms of the world to the beatific idea of God.
In his dialogues, Plato makes Phaedrus speak to Socrates:
“These are the lesser mysteries of love, into which even you, Socrates, may enter; to the greater and more hidden ones which are the crown of these, and to which, if you pursue them in a right spirit, they will lead, I know not whether you will be able to attain. But I will do my utmost to inform you, and do you follow if you can. For, he who would proceed aright in this matter should begin in youth to visit beautiful forms; and first, if he be guided by his instructor aright, to love one such form only—out of that he should create fair thoughts; and soon he will of himself perceive that the beauty of one form is akin to the beauty of another; and then if beauty of form in general is his pursuit, how foolish would he be not to recognize that the beauty in every form is one and the same! And when he perceives this he will abate his violent love of the one, which he will despise and deem a small thing, and will become a lover of all beautiful forms; in the next stage he will consider that the beauty of the mind is more honourable than the beauty of the outward form. So that if a virtuous soul have but a little comeliness, he will be content to love and tend him, and will search out and bring to the bright thoughts which may improve the young, until he is compelled to contemplate and see the beauty of them all is of one family, and that personal beauty is a trifle; and after laws and institutions he will go on to the sciences that he may see their beauty, being not like servant in love with the beauty of one youth or man or institution, himself a slave, mean and narrow-minded; but drawing towards and contemplating the vast sea of beauty, he will create many fair and noble thoughts and notions in boundless love of wisdom, until on that shore he grows and waxes strong, and at last the vision is revealed to him of a single science, which is the science of beauty everywhere. To this I will proceed; please to give me your very best attention:
“He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and who has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he comes toward the end will suddenly perceive a nature of wonarous beauty (and this, Socrates, is the final cause of all our former toils)—a nature which in the first place is everlasting not growing and decaying, or waxing and waning; secondly, not fair in one point of view and foul in another, or at one time or in one relation or at one place fair, at another time or in another relation or at another place foul, as if fair to some and foul to others, or in the likeness of a face or hands or any other part of the bodily frame, or in any form of speech or knowledge, or existing in any other being, as for example, in an animal, or in heaven, or in earth, or in any other place; but beauty absolute, separate, simple, and everlasting, which without diminution and without increase, or any change, is imparted to the evergrowing and perishing beauties of all other things. He who from ??ese ascending under the influence of true love, begins to perceive that beauty is not far from the end. And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty, using these as steps only and from one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is. This, my dear Socrates”, said the stranger of Mantineis, “is that life above all others which man should live, in the contemplation of beauty absolute; a beauty which if you once behold, you would see not to be after the measure of gold, and garments, and fair boys and youths, whose presence now entrances you; and you and many a one would be content to live seeing them only and conversing with them without meat or drink, if that were possible—you only want to look at them and to be with them. But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty—the divine beauty, I mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of morality and all the colours and vanities of human life thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has no hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?”
Plotinus (204 A.D.—270 A.D.) who is the next great mystic of the West speaks of men and things radiating or emanating from the Lord, and His Divine Trinity of the (1) nous (or the One), (2) the One-Many and (3) the One and Many, reminds us of Shaiva Siddhantins’ Shiva, (1) transcending the world, (2) being one with the world and (3) being in the company of the world—‘Tandy veray utanay”; “Avaiye tdneyay”. According to him, matter is the principle of externality and the world we perceive with our senses is the shadow of the spiritual world. Nature is not the illusion but the sleeping spirit. According to Plotinus, Art or Poetry, which is not mere imitation but creative imagination, passes beyond the shadow and intuits the real or prime or divine beauty, what the German philosopher Schelling (1775-1859 A.D.) calls the artistic intuition of Cosmic Beauty.
3. English Mystics:
English Mystics are characterized by their worship of Nature. To William Blake (1757-1827 A.D.) the earth is a distorted shadow of Spiritual Reality and he is certain that the Eternal is in everything. The eyes of man, according to him, can therefore, open into Eternity and his imagination can expand into Infinity, the multiple vision leading ultimately to that of oneness of Divinity, seeing a world in a grain of sand, a Heaven in a wild flower holding Infinity in the palm of his hand and Eternity in an hour.
This reminds us of Jami, a Persian Sufi Mystic (1414-1492 A.D.) who thinks:
“Each species of matter did He constitute
A mirror, causing each to reflect
A Beauty of His visage; From the rose
Flashed forth His Beauty and the nightingale
Beholding it loved madly. From that fire
The candle drew the lustre which beguiles
The moth to destruction”.
“All that is not one must ever
Suffer with the wound of absence
And whoever in Love’s city
Enters, finds but room for one
And but in oneness union”.
Sufis believe that Allah brought forth this world as an image of Himself out of love and the Sufi Mystic Hallaj (854-922 A.D.) was blessed with the cosmic vision of God in all forms as the All-Self, whilst Ibn-al-Farid beheld the Lord in every charm and Grace and loveliness of life.
Spinoza, the ethico-religious philosopher, saw all things in God, and God in all things being their essence, for to him all things were God under the form of eternity.
The Chinese Taoism (570 B.C.) asserts that Reality ‘Tao’ animates and nourishes all beings.
III - Immanence:
William Blake (1757-1827 A.D.) is only echoing the mystic Bohme (1575-1624 A.D.) who speaks of our seeing a flower, to whom the world is but a mirror of the Deity where the soul could converse with the Lord therein whilst even a flower in the wall will reveal God in all His glory like the lilies in the starry heavens.
Tennyson also experiences the same truth when he sings:
“Flower in the crannied wall
I pluck you out the crannies
Hold you here, root and all in my hand
Little flower, but if I could understand
What you are, root and all and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.”
Nature mysticism inspires, thus, the Bhakta to experience and enjoy the beauty of God objectively in all things and in the end he realizes the mystery of this Absolute beauty remaining already enthroned in the heart as the Lord of Love. Tagore, it is said, had a vision of the world bathed in the radiance of beauty, beauty which according to him links Heaven and Earth when the song of the singer was not distinct from Him who was Rasa itself in the drama of love and spiritual wedding.
But this Nature mysticism ought not to be confounded with Pantheism and some forms of Nature mysticism which remain restricted to Nature alone without ever thinking of the spirit or God who whilst immanent in Nature transcends it as well. Cosmic consciousness is the consciousness of the Cosmos in its entirety but it is not a mere addition or summation of all things of this world. Cosmos is the eternal expression of the dynamic love of the Lord. Creation is the process of the Formless God revealing to us in varied forms. The one becomes many out of love. He who is beyond space time is now in the spatial order. This is to help the soul clothed in space and time to unveil itself and intuit its true divine nature, to kiss it away as it were unto divinity.
Arurar puts it,
“Passing through this embodied stage the soul transcends this body to a higher disembodied spiritual sphere”.
The intuition of the mystic is not ordinary perception of the eyes of the physical body ‘Caksusa drsti’ or a dialectic knowledge or ‘Tarka drsti’. It is the perception of the divine inner eye or ‘Divyacaksus’ and, therefore, it is a divine vision or ‘Divyadrsti’. It is the perfect experience or the Purnanubhava.
Something of this subjective feeling is found described by Wordsworth:
“Far and wide the clouds were touched,
And in their silent faces could he read
Unutterable love. Sound needed none,
Nor any voice of joy; his spirit drank
The spectacle; sensation, soul, and form,
All melted into him; they swallowed up
His animal being; in them did he live,
And by them did he live; they were his life.
In such access of mind, in such high hour
Of visitation from the living God,
Thought was not; in enjoyment it expired.
No thanks he breathed, he proffered no request:
Rapt into still communion that transcends
The imperfect offices of prayer and praise,
His mind was a thanksgiving to the power
That made him: it was blessedness and love!”
“Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things”.
“Until the breath of this corporal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things”.
Shelley addressing the skylark expresses his experience thus:
“My spirit like a charmed bark doth swim
Upon the liquid waves of thy sweet singing,
Far, far away into the regions dim
Of rapture, as a boat with swift sails singing
Her way adown some many-winding river,
Speeds through dark forests o’er the water swinging”.
To the mystic, the universe appears animated by God. The whole Cosmos appears as His Rupa. The Universe as form of God was revealed to Arjuna by Krishna and the Tamilians can read in their own language the description of Murukan (Murugan) appearing in this Visvarupa before Curapanman as described in the Tamil Kantapuranam. Sometimes it is terrifying, sublime, and majestic as it was to Arjuna. But to these mystics all this is the play, the drama of that love enshrined in their heart. It is the beauty of the Universe, ‘Bhuvana Sundara’ and the Bhagavata calls it or the ‘Trailokya Sundara’ as the Tamilian Shaivites will have it. “The world is the vessel of the lamp; the sea is the oil; the sun is the flame”:
Thus appears the Universe as the divine Light to Poykai Alvar:.
“Vaiyam takaliya varkatale neyyaka
Veyya katiron vilakkaka”.
IV - Body as temple: Social service:
The objective world does not exhaust Nature. Nature appearing as the objective world is not only all that we see outside us, it includes our body also. Even this becomes deified as the temple of the Lord and some speak of even this becoming ultimately divine.
The others moving with their bodies on this earth also form part of this world and Nature, and they are the walking temples: ‘Natamdtum koilkal’.
“The heart-beat in the mystic is in tune with the heart-beat of the world owing to spiritual community and the immanence of God in each person. Like the germ-cell in the body, the soul is the epitome of the universe as an inter-related living whole”.
It is the microcosm of the Cosmos macrocosm.
As in the ‘Andam’ (macrocosm), so in the ‘Pindam’ (microcosm) the Lord is reflected in the mirror of our soul; nay, he is ‘Antar yarnin’., the inner soul; as such, He is the Reality of reality, the Life of life; the great Light as the Upanisad puts it from which the lesser lights get their illumination. The light of Andam is found in the light of the Pindam.
‘Anpu’ or love is the vessel, ‘arvam’ or ‘prema’ or the hankering after the Lord is the oil and the blissful heart is the wick and Jnana is the flame:—thus the Lord appears to Putattalvar as the inner light:
“Anpe takaliya arvame neyyaka
Inpuruku cintai itutiriya—Nanpuruki
Nanac cutarvilak kerrinen Naranarku
Nanat tamil purinta nan”.
These two lights—outer and inner—reveal the hidden Lord, God as the “Sarvabhuta sthitha atma”, the soul in all things. Every soul appears as the temple of the Lord demanding our worship and service. Therefore, the life of the mystic is the life of social service, ‘Lokasangraha’ working for the universal salvation.
Svami Vivekananda begged of Sri Ramakrsna to bless him with the never-ending samadhi and the master was sorry that his disciple, a vast receptacle of light, should think of remaining for ever absorbed in personal joy. He assured his loving sisya that the latter would realize the unique divinity of all beings; and Svami Vivekananda, thus transformed, came to assert that the only God in whom he believed as the sum total of all souls and uroclaimed: “Above all I believe in mv God the wicked, my God the miserable, my God the poor of all races”. Has not the Buddha said, “All those sins of the world, let them fall on me; let the world be saved?” Has not Ramanuja welcomed hell for himself if the world could be saved through him?
Is this not the characteristic feature of all the saints of Thiruthondathogai as described by Cekkilar:
“Kutum anpinil kumpitale anri
Vitum venta viralin vilankinar?”
The Western mystics also saw in every living being the expression of God and the whole world as a family even as the Hindus did, speaking of the family as ‘Vasudaiva kutumbakam’.
Blake’s poem ‘Tiger tiger’ is known to every child reading English and there he sees the creator even in the cruel animal of the forest. St. Francis of Assisi saw God in the leper and kissed him. He spoke of the brother the Sun, the sister the Moon, the mother the Earth, and he moved in the world, practising the presence of God, holding even the wolf as his blood brother. The Tamilians proclaimed from early times, “Ydtum ure, yavarum kelir”— ‘All places are our abodes and all men are our relations.’
V - Nature as the form of the Lord:
The Tevaram, both of Campantar and Arurar, abounds in the description of Nature, its cities, rivers and mountains these saints visited. Very often a large part of these verses is found to be such description and this has surprised many readers. The places they visited are equally holy and divine as the temples. Therefore, the description of Nature is one way of describing the Lord.
Appar’s statements throw a flood of light on this problem
“Tanalatu ulakamillai, cakamalatu atimaiyillai”—
‘There is no world apart from Him; apart from this world He has no service’.
In another place he sings,
“Cakamalatu atimaiyillai; tanalal tunaiyu-millai”—
‘Apart from this world He has no service; He has no companion except Himself’.
His third statement is much more important and significant:
“Umaiyalatu uruvam illai; ulakalatu utaiyatu illai” —
‘He has no form but that of Uma; He has no garment apart from this world’.
The One without a second who remains formless to start with becomes two, assuming in addition the form of the Mother Goddess who is none else than His own Grace or ‘Citsakti’. The world which is also called His Sakti— His Parigraha Sakti— is evolved as the scene of divine service and this world is nothing but Him. This world is the beautiful garment of God. In another verse of his, the beautiful rising full moon as representing the object of the sense—of sight, the spotless music of the harp as representing the object of a sensation of hearing, the zephyr casting the fragrance of flowers which forms the object of the sensation of smell, the bulging out fruits ripening in Summer representing the object of the sensation of touch and the cool and refreshing water of the lotus pond wherein hum the bees as representing the object of the sensation of touch—these are the only comparisons which Appar could think of for describing divine bliss. Thus it is clear, the world is divine—the veritable Mother Goddess in the eyes of these poets. Thus God Himself in this form becomes the means of attaining Him as goal at the end, as the Vaishnavites say He is both the ‘upaya’ and the ‘upeya’.
The Astamurtas or the eight forms of Shiva have been often mentioned by Arurar. In one place he calls the Lord ‘Attan’ These eight are arranged in their order of progressive evolution, (1) the five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth; (2) the Sun and the Moon (probably as representing time) and the sacrificer or the soul. The Lord becomes everything. He has become the flesh or the body, the life or the soul and the organic relationship of the body and soul. He has thus become the whole world: the Heavens above, the Earth below, with the oceans and the mountains. “He is the unique one in all the four directions. ‘He is myself’. He is the air, the fire, the sea, the crest of the mountain”. “He is the knowledge, standing as the five elements”. He is the world and the Heavens, the day or the central axis of the world, the snow clad mountain, the sea, the water, the fire, the long travelling wind, the wide expanse of space and the shadow or the reflection—‘nilaV: There is another reading ‘nilan’ meaning earth (This probably suggests that all these evolved forms are the shadow or reflection of His reality). He appears all pervasive in the mind of those who contemplate on Him appearing there as the wind, the fire, the Sun and the Moon. He has become the flesh, the refuge of the soul, the wide space, the sky where the clouds shower the rains, the intellect and the fate and the followers, therefore, think of Him variously. He is the encircling light, the water, the earth, the fire, the air, the ether, the sun, the seven tunes of the Tamils and the sound of the seven strings of the harp and the ruler of the seven worlds. He is the Lord, the sound evolved from ‘nada’, the flame of knowledge as the life of this body and crops. He lives in the heart of His followers. He is the word and the meaning, the moon in the sky, the pure flame, the wind, the fire and the earth, the great dancer of the forest. He becomes the lightning and there He stands as fire. “You have entered the body and become its life and you have become the three lights”.
He rains, becoming the large clouds; He is the meaning of all arts; He sympathizes and commingles with the soul which perceives; He stands as the day and the night; He is the ear that listens discerningly. He is the taste and the tongue that tastes; He is the eye that sees and the roaring sea and the mountain. We have explained this as giving expression to the unity of divine experience and everything realized as the loving Lord. The same idea is expressed in another verse: “I assert you are the creation, destruction and sustenance. I assert you are the word and its meaning which people speak. I assert you are the tongue, the ear and the eye”. The commingling is referred to as ‘utanatal’:
“Enhenum iruntun atiyen uwi ninaintal
Anke vantennotum utanaki ninraruli
Inke envinaiyai aruttit tennaiyalum
Kanka nayakane Kazhippalai meyane”
He is the eye of those who want to see Him. “You are the creation and you are its witharawal”. “You have created all the worlds”. . “He is possessed of all the worlds”.
VI - The drama of soul making:
All this Drama of creation is in the interest of deifying the suffering soul by making it go through the several grades of experience:
“Conna ittolilkal enna karanam torra ennil
Munnavan vilaiyattenru molitalum amuyirkku
Manniya puttimutti valankavum arulanmibnne
Tunniya malankal ellam tutaipPatum collalame”
The process of sublimation or transmutation is often referred to by Arurar:
“The may am is shown and then the birth, and then the mind which does not forget Him. Next is shown the body (which taking advantage of all this helps us to reach the Lord)”.
“He has become our head, eyes, ears, nose, mouth and body and thus He has removed the cruel karma”.
“To be relieved of the fetters of karma, He removes the expanse of the terrific ocean of birth. Out of the power of His touch or meeting, He yokes us to His service. The wealth of tapas is thus amassed. He becomes easy of reach to be contemplated upon by His followers. He opens the gate of Shivaloka of His feet. So He is within the mind of those worshipping Him”.
Another verse explains this further:
“He destroys the delusion of a mind; He resides within the mind as the intelligence. He creates the magic of the body. He destroys (?) becoming the wind and the fire; for offering rest, He brings on diseases. He destroys cruel karma in the twinkling of an eye”.
“The bondage and freedom are of your making”.
“Many of your followers and others, you lead astray”.
“He has the one idea of protecting the world as its very apple of the eye”.
“He is the treasure of all living beings and their light”.
“He is the light of all living beings of the world”.
“He oozes and sprouts as the nectar specially belonging to all the living beings”.
“He has entered the mind and has not known going out”.
“He is the life inside our body and outside there, the world in the fleshy parts. He becomes the very breath, but stands all through the universe in the form of ‘Om’”.
In another place, the poet expresses the truth almost echoing the Upanisad.
“He who cannot be thought of even by our mind, the Lord of Heavens, the Great who loves the ‘panchagavya’, He becomes an atom and assumes the form of fire-spark and enters, compressed into this body spreading Himself all over. He is my wealth”.
“He is all pervasive as the fragrance in the flower”.
“He becomes the life and significance of everything without whom everything becomes bitter and a lifeless painting and a drawing board:
“You are the life unto the paintings and the basis or the leaf on which the painting is drawn (the painting is the world as the creative art). You appear as its exact facsimile (This is according to the reading, “Inaiye ottiyal”; according to the other reading “Unaiye ottiyal”— ‘You are like unto yourself’). To the suffering soul He is like the cloud, bringing life and happiness to the famishing crops”.
He gives us a much more intimate relationship, the relation of the lover and the loved. Because of the immensity of this creation, he speaks in terms of the male elephant and the female elephant.
“He comes, the unique Lord, commingling in our speech as the roaring ocean and the mountain, from the depth of the one to the height of the other, and as time, every part of it, from morning to evening”.
VII - Nature—terrific and auspicious:
Arurar refers to the Visvarupa as well. In that form the dome of the universe is the crown of His head”“Anta kapalam cenni”. “The puranic forms sometimes represent this terrific form. Therefore, the exclamation, ‘We are afraid of serving you, who go beyond this universe and stay there away from the Beyond”. But all that is the speech of the loving damsel enjoying it all, as the Beauty of her Beloved.
Nature has two sides, the terrific and the auspicious, which according to Bhandarkar, develops into the worship of Shiva and Visnu. He hastens to add that gradually also He has become auspicious, Rudra being Himself Shiva. The word Shiva is important, meaning as it does, the auspicious. The terrific aspect of the Lord becomes the lovely form of the Absolute. It becomes the form of universal love. From the very beginning, Rudra is the Lord of the sinners and the down-fallen. He lovingly carries all that is discarded by the world, as ugly, useless, terrific and fierce, the bones, the serpent, the wild flowers, the fire, the tiger, and the elephant and the ghosts. Who else will love them if not He, the lover and the Lord?
To the mystics, these become the ornaments and the companion of the Lord:
“Enakkom pummila vamaiyum puntanko rerumenik
Kanakkat tirrontar kantana colliyun kamurave
Manaitto lonrai yututtup pulittol piyarkumittu
Yanaittol porppa tarintomel namivark katpatome”
“He adorns Himself with the teeth of the boar and tortoise, rides on the bull in the forest, with the skin of the deer, tiger and the elephant and his bhaktas seeing these speak as they like intoxicated with divine love”.
VIII - Transcendence:
The Lord is thus inside the world becoming the world itself but He is beyond it all. The story of Visnu and Brahma not knowing the beginning or the end of the pillar of fire appearing before them emphasizes this great truth.
Arurar is not a mere Nature mystic. He intuits God in Nature and as transcending Nature. The Lord is not only in the Universe; He is the nectar dancing in joy beyond the Universe of all Universes. He is also beyond the Universe transcending it. The Universe is but matter and He spiritualizes it. He is the One great Light of all eight points of the compass. He has vivified the body; He has entered the flesh and become the life. Thus He is the kith and kin of all.
IX - Nature and Worship:
We have referred to the Astamurta of our God which our poet mentions often. The conception of this Astamilrta is according to Tamil epic Manimekalai, the quintessence of Shaivism; therefore, this becomes important in our study of Arurar’s Shaivism. Nature is the form of the Lord to be worshipped: “Tanalatu ulakamillai” is indeed true. The kingdom of God is not only inside our soul but also there before us in the form of this world wherein we play on the lap of Mother Uma. The Lord teaches us as this great Mother: “Karpanai karpitta katavul.” Thanks to His Grace, we begin to contemplate and imagine His form as best as we can and though all these symbols and images are as nothing compared to Him, He at once enters and expands in the mind thus contemplating on Him—“Pavippar manam pavikkoutan”
Nature is looked upon as the very form of Godhead worshipped by our poet. Ciparppatam mountain is to Arurar the very Lord and our poet describes the mountain in his hymn™ therefore without speaking of the Lord. Our poet is speaking also of Vellatai in similar terms. The description of the mountain scenes of Ciparppatam assumes therefore a great significance.
Sandilya Sutra compares the creation proceeding from God with the creation of poetry or any work of art proceeding from the imagination of the poet or artist. This gives us a better understanding of the poetry of our saint. We have a picture of idealized or deified love, the very essence of Godhead. This world is a world of love, the happy family of all beings, the very heaven on earth and this reminds us of the social aspect of Arurar’s religion where the soul is another form of God. A verse in Shaiva-samayaneri explains why we would love our neighbours as ourselves: “Every living being is the form of the Lord. Realizing this, love all living beings. The love of men or followers of the Lord, is more important than the love of the Lord. This is what is called the cult of Atiyars or Bhaktas. The heart of Arurar beats in unison with the hearts of the suffering humanity. This is the motive force of the various hymns addressed to the world at large. We have noticed that the pure soul of his, oftentimes so identifies with the sinners and the deluded, that he feels their faults are his, and cries to the Lord in repentance for all.
To our poet, Nature is the beautiful form of the Lord. This has been explained in detail in our study of the mystic value of the hymns. We saw Appar asserting that God has no form other than that of the Mother Goddess Umd, which we know is the embodiment of Arul or Grace and that God has no garment other than this world which therefore is the form of the Mother or Grace. Arurar continuing this tradition speaks of God adorning Himself with ‘Arul’ of no misery—“Allalll arule punaivan” (There is another reading ‘purivan’ instead of ‘punaivan’). He is the very form of this universe—‘anda’. He is the male and the female and all forms. He is himself the father and mother of all the living beings and He is their chief. He has become Himself all the forms. He is the male, the female and the neuter, but His form is not born Sometimes, as we have often pointed out, our poet sees the Lord as the pure form reflected in nature. At other times, nature appears to our poet as worshipping the Lord very much like himself. We know of his vision of the world as a Gurukula. He sees the same picture in nature where the rivers, mountains, trees, animals, elephants, monkeys and bees circumambulate, worship and sing the glories of the Lord and where the parrots recite the Vedas. Even inanimate works of men like ships worship Him. In all these places, one feels, that he is identifying himself with these comrades in worship, of whom he seems to be proud. The chilaren, the crabs and the bees all round, all remind him of the glory of the Lord as much as the majestic sea and the terrific flood. Art also becomes a part of nature and he sees the beauty of the Lord in the gopurams adorning themselves with the crescent moon attaining, as it were, Sarupya. Music, dance and poetry are all forms of the Lord who is Himself an artist.
X - Universalism:
The universal love of our poet may be better understood by our realizing the wide scope of his poetic interest which sees Beauty everywhere. A list of the flora and fauna of his poetry will help us here. The various kinds of bamboos, the sugar-cane, the various kinds of paddy and grains, the cocoanut, the arecanut, the palmyra and the varieties of the plantains are often found mentioned along with the aloe, the sandal, the mango, the venkai, the konku, the punnai, the natal, various kinds of the jack tree, the mara, the vanni, the kalli, the marutam, the atti and the takaram. Elam (cardamom), ilavankam (clove), takkolam, inci (ginger), milaku and kari (pepper varieties) are his favourites as much as the kantal, muntal and the munci grass. Some of these are food like paddy, others are famous for their fragrance, still others for the shade, many more for their fruits, a few others for their flowers and a fewer still for their spices.
The heaven of poets is the heaven of flowers and our poet refers to the blooming konku, venkai, punnai, kura, makil (vakulam), kullai, kuruntam, konrai, cerunti, mallikai, mullai, mavval, matavi, kurukkatti, cenpakam and the varieties of the sword flower, talai, kaitai and ketakai, sometimes losing himself in the contemplation of the beauty of the metamorphoses of their bud into flower and fruit.
The beautiful water flowers of all varieties whose distinctions the later generations have forgotten occupy in our poet the unique position of beauty—karunkuvalai, cenkuvalai, kalunir, cenkalunir, kavi, neytal, nilam, centamarai, puntarikam, kamalam, aravintam, pankayam, muntakam, alli (ampal, panal).
The floods of the Kaviri, Manni, Kollitam, Palaru, Cirraru, Muttaru and Niva rush down to carry spices, fruits, fragrant wood, yak tail, and elephant tusk, precious stones, pearls, coral and gold with bees, conches and fish to enrich the country.
The favourite birds of our poet are not only the koel, the peacock, the dove, the parrot, but also the owl, the crow, the wild cock and generally all the birds, the kuruvi. The water birds have the beauty of their own and our poet refers to kuruku, venkuruku, narai, annam and anril (is it a water bird?) which abound in the fertile lands enriched by the floods.
Amongst the insects the bee is the highly popular one with our poets, more attractive to them than the birds. The six-legged (arupatam) which is the characteristic feature of all insects, is reserved for the bees by the poets and people of this country. The loving eye of the poet distinguishes a variety among these—vantu, tenvantu, nimiru, curumpu, ali and he notes their life of love with reference to kalai vantu and petai vantu and loses his heart in their hum and dance round the nectar of flowers (atal ali). Even the tiny fly does not escape the keen and loving attention of our poet (intu). The monkeys—our poet mentions a variety of them, mucu, mucukkalai, kuranku, kulaikkurunku, katuvan, manti and enjoys their life of love and looks upon their pranks as a dance—the dark buffalo, the crow, and the bull, the loving couple of elephants, the must elephant, and the varieties of deer—pulvay, kalai; pulliman, marai, the boar—occupy the happy land of our poet. He mentions the dli, perhaps in the sense of a lion; for, otherwise it is a fabulous animal. The floods carry though not the yak, its tail. The fox intensifies the desolation of the graveyard.
The fish, moving, jumping and darting in the rushing flood and in the sleeping ponds are glimpses of divine beauty to the poet; valai, cenkayal are his favourites with the varal (the vari varal) cel, kentai and malanku (serpent fish) occupying the next place in his heart. The ‘cura’ or the shark is also mentioned; so is makaram. It is not clear whether it means the crocodile or the shark itself or the fabulous makaram so beautifully conceived and chiselled out by the sculptors of the time of Arurar. The crabs, their movement, their appearance and their variety, nantu, pulli nalli and alavan have all attracted his attention along with the sacred conches ippi, canku, mukaram, valampuri, calancalam, pearls, taralam, muttam, nittilam, and coral-reefs described as coral creepers (pavalakkoti) are all carried in the floods, with gold and gems together with peacock feathers and yak tails and elephant tusks.